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Chase Freedom Unlimited® review
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Chase Freedom Unlimited® Overview
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has long been a favorite among fans of cash back credit cards. The card’s rewards program can be highly rewarding for cardholders looking to take advantage of the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal as well as those who use Lyft and make frequent dining and drugstore purchases. The 1.5 percent cash back rate on general purchases, along with valuable perks like travel cancellation/interruption insurance and DoorDash DashPass, make the card worth it for budding travelers and cash back enthusiasts alike.
You’ll need excellent credit to qualify or prequalify for the card. Although it offers a solid average cash back rate, you’ll get the most value out of your rewards when you pair the Freedom Unlimited with a higher-tier Chase travel credit card.
What are the pros and cons?
- You will only get 5 percent back on travel if you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal
- The intro 3 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum) increases to 5 percent ($5 minimum) for transfers after your first 60 days
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards Rate: 5 percent cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025); 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3 percent cash back on dining; 3 percent cash back on drugstore purchases; 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases
- Welcome Offer: Earn an additional 1.5 percent cash back on top of all purchases’ original cash back rate (on up to $20,000) for the first year (exclusive offer through Bankrate)
- Annual Fee: $0
- Purchase Intro APR: 0 percent for 15 months
- Balance Transfer Intro APR: 0 percent for 15 months (Intro Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days)
- Regular APR: 17.99 percent to 26.74 percent (variable)
Current welcome offer
By applying through Bankrate or our CardMatch pre-approval tool, all of your rewards rates will be boosted by an additional 1.5 percent cash back during your first year (on up to $20,000 in combined purchases)—meaning you’ll earn 3 percent to 6.5 percent on all purchases, based on your bonus category:
- 6.5 percent back on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel
- 4.5 percent back on dining and eligible takeout and delivery purchases
- 4.5 percent back on drugstore purchases
- 3 percent on all other purchases
This could be incredibly rewarding for big spenders since maxing out the $20,000 spending limit would rake in an extra $300 of cash back on top of your regular cash back earnings for the year. This is more than the standard $200 bonus for spending $500 on purchases in the first three months that the Chase Freedom Flex℠ (its sibling card) and many other no annual fee cash back cards provide. Granted, the Freedom Unlimited imposes a longer time commitment and higher eventual spending requirement, but the 1.5 percent rewards rate boost can be one of the most lucrative first-year offers in its class if it already aligns with your spending.
Our exclusive offer is still a great deal even if your budget is a bit more modest. We estimate the average cardholder spends about $15,900 per year, which would still net you an additional $238 on top of your normal cash back with the 1.5 percent rewards boost.
However, the card’s previous offer included 5 percent cash back at grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target) on up to $12,000 in purchases during your first year. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) latest Consumer Expenditures report data, you would have earned a stellar $247 (calculated from the average $4,942 grocery spend in 2020) from the limited-time grocery store category alone.
The current offer still delivers a generous cash back haul well worth considering compared to rival cards’ offerings, but Chase’s new offer, albeit unique and rewarding on its own, may be a step down from what they’ve presented in the past for some cardholders.
With its recent refresh, the Chase Freedom Unlimited stands out as one of the most valuable no-annual-fee cash back cards on the market. In fact, the Freedom Unlimited actually earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash back at a 1:1 rate—which makes the Freedom Unlimited uniquely valuable as a beginner’s rewards credit card if you’re looking to travel with a premium Chase card down the road.
How you earn
If you’re new to rewards credit cards and aren’t sure you’re ready for a premium rewards card with an annual fee, the Freedom Unlimited gives you the opportunity to start building a points balance at no cost.
The Freedom Unlimited earns 5 percent cash back on all travel purchased via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 3 percent back on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery purchases) and 3 percent back at drugstores. Those bonus categories are in addition to the unlimited 1.5 percent cash back the card earns on all other purchases.
This combination of a solid cash back rate and a generous bonus cash back rate in multiple categories makes the Freedom Unlimited a very valuable no-annual-fee credit card.
How to redeem
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a ton of choices for how you can redeem your rewards. You can opt for cash back in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit, redeem for travel or gift cards or shop online at Amazon.com. Like many other credit cards, you can also redeem your rewards for charitable contributions (which currently have a 25 percent boost in value).
You can also combine your rewards with a premium Ultimate Rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card to enjoy additional flexibility, such as the ability to transfer your rewards to one of Chase’s transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio.
How much are the rewards worth?
The value of Chase Freedom Unlimited rewards will vary depending on how you choose to redeem them. Here’s a look at what sort of value you can expect on average with each redemption method:
- Cash back (statement credit or deposit): 1 cent
- Travel: 1 cent
- Gift cards: 1 cent
- Apple purchases: 1 cent
- Amazon.com purchases: 0.8 cents
- Charitable contributions: 1.25 cents
If you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card, you can get even more value out of your points: Combine your rewards with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred cards and redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal and you’ll enjoy a boosted value of 1.25 cents per point, a 25 percent increase to the value you’d get redeeming for cash back at 1 cent per point. It’s even better with the Sapphire Reserve, as your points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Other cardholder benefits
While the Chase Freedom Unlimited card’s perks can’t compete with those you’ll find on a luxury travel card like the Sapphire Reserve, the card still offers a number of quality consumer benefits that are stellar for a no annual fee card. Here are a few standouts:
Complimentary DashPass subscription
A great complement to the Freedom Unlimited card’s bonus rewards on dining purchases, DashPass is a subscription service from the popular food delivery company, DoorDash, that gets you unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee on orders over $12. The Freedom Unlimited comes with three months of free DashPass membership, after which—if you don’t cancel beforehand—you’re automatically enrolled in DashPass for 50 percent off the monthly rate (typically $9.99 per month) for the next nine months. Make sure you’re eligible by activating before Dec. 31, 2024.
Purchase protection and extended warranty coverage
If something you bought with the card is damaged or stolen within 120 days of your purchase, the Freedom Unlimited covers the cost up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account. Plus, eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less on items you purchase with the card are extended by a year.
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are prized perks when travel looks uncertain. What’s more, you typically only find this level of coverage with travel cards carrying a hefty annual fee. If your trip is canceled or cut short due to sickness, severe weather or other covered circumstances, you can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid tickets and non-refundable passenger fares.
Chase Pay Yourself Back
As of last October, Chase extended the Pay Yourself Back tool to the Chase Freedom card series, which can make your rewards a force for good. Pay Yourself Back lets you use points to cover purchases you’ve made within the last 90 days with a 25 to 50 percent value boost.
At this time, the Freedom Unlimited can use Pay Yourself Back to cover charitable donations to 12 select organizations at 1.25 cents-per-point rate (until Dec. 31, 2022).
Rates and Fees
Luckily, the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t charge many fees, assuming you pay your balance on time and in full each month. If you don’t use the card abroad and don’t make balance transfers after the introductory period, it costs nothing to carry and use the card.
- Annual fee: The Freedom Unlimited makes for a great all-purpose rewards card because with no annual fee to factor in, you won’t have to worry about whether the card’s perks or rewards justify its cost. Instead, simply keep the Chase 5/24 rule in mind and decide whether the card is worth the credit ding that comes from a hard pull.
- APR: The Freedom Unlimited offers a fairly wide range of potential APRs. Depending on your credit history, you’ll be assigned a variable APR between 17.99 percent and 26.74 percent. While the low end is a bit lower than the current average credit card interest rate, the high end is roughly 40 percent higher than the average APR.
- Intro APR: The Freedom Unlimited doubles as a solid zero-interest card with a respectable 15-month 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers (the ongoing variable APR begins afterward).
- Foreign transaction fee: One of the most glaring negatives of the Freedom Unlimited is its foreign transaction fee. If you use the card abroad, you’ll be charged an additional 3 percent of the purchase amount for each transaction. If you frequently travel overseas, you’ll want to use a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card.
- Balance transfer fee: If you take advantage of the Freedom Unlimited’s introductory APR on balance transfers, you’ll take on an introductory balance transfer of 3 percent or $5, whichever is greater. This is a pretty standard fee, but you should act quickly since waiting to transfer any balances to the Freedom Unlimited after your first 60 days will incur a 5 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum).
First-year card value vs. ongoing value
Although the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t come with as many valuable perks or credits as Chase’s premium cards, its bonus categories still provide considerable value beyond the weight of your first year’s intro offers. Compared to flat-rate cash back cards that earn up to 2 percent on purchases, such as the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card (earns cash rewards), the Freedom Unlimited can rake in much more. By our estimates, an average spender in a typical year with the Active Cash could earn around $318, while that spender with the Freedom Unlimited could collect roughly $361 on the same budget, with typical estimated expenses.
|Benefits and Costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Welcome offers||+$238.50 (earned from the 1.5 percent cash back boost on the average cardholder’s estimated $15,900 yearly spend)||N/A|
|Perks (of monetary value)||+$74.92 (DoorDash DashPass offer)||N/A|
*Based on the following estimates for annual expenditures by category: groceries ($4,600); dining ($3,500); household utilities, fuels and public services ($4,000); household supplies, furnishings and home improvement ($2,800); apparel and services and department stores ($1,800); gas and gas stations ($2,000); transit and ride-shares ($800); entertainment ($3,000); personal care products and services, household operations and other miscellaneous spending ($3,300); travel ($2,000); pharmacies and drugstores ($1,300); online shopping ($1,800).
You can stretch your value even further with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Reserve. The Reserve card’s 50 percent bonus redemption value can turn your $352.98 of cash back with the Freedom Unlimited into approximately $529 toward travel through Chase’s portal. That’s about an additional $176, an excellent value considering there is no annual fee to recoup with the Freedom Unlimited. However, if you’re using this strategy you will have to pay the Sapphire Reserve card’s $550 annual fee.
How the Chase Freedom Unlimited compares to other cash back cards
A lot of cash back credit cards are on the market today, and most cards in this niche do not charge an annual fee. However, some cards stand out due to the various benefits they offer or for their lucrative initial bonuses.
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Blue Cash Preferred from American Express
The Chase Freedom Unlimited competes well against the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express, especially during its first year with boosted rewards rates.
Although the Blue Cash Preferred has the edge for purchases at U.S. supermarkets, for U.S. streaming subscriptions and at U.S. gas stations, the Freedom Unlimited card wins in the categories of dining and drugstore purchases. If you mainly buy groceries instead of dining out, you might want to lean on the Blue Cash Preferred card’s favorable 6 percent cash back rate in that key grocery category, where the Freedom Unlimited will only earn 1.5 percent cash back.
The Blue Cash Preferred also has an advantage with its traditional welcome bonus of $250 when you spend $3,000 within the first 6 months. This beats the Unlimited card’s boosted rewards rates, which could add up to an extra $300 if you max the $20,000 spending limit.
Compared with the Freedom Unlimited, the biggest drawback on the Blue Cash Preferred card is its $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year). If you spend modestly with your credit card, you could struggle to offset any annual fee with cash back earnings. On the other hand, Blue Cash Preferred cardholders can easily offset the fee with premium perks, like the Disney Bundle streaming credit valued at $84, among others.
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Citi Double Cash Card
For those who don’t want to worry about weighing their spending in tiered categories, a flat-rate cash back card may be the solution. The Citi Double Cash card offers 2 percent cash back on all purchases (1 percent as you buy, 1 percent when you pay for your purchase). This is handy if you don’t want to worry about making the most out of certain categories or find that you spend an even amount in several categories.
Both cards come with no annual fee and don’t place any limit on how much cash back you can earn in a year, despite the fact they have different cash back rates. However, the Citi Double Cash totes a lower regular APR (17.74 percent to 27.74 percent, variable) with an 18 month introductory period of 0 percent on balance transfers, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited has an introductory APR offer on both new purchases and balance transfers with a higher regular APR of 17.99 percent to 26.74 percent (variable).
Although earning 2 percent back on every purchase is simple and convenient, a card with boosted cash back rates in tiered categories can be more appealing to anyone looking to maximize their credit card strategy and earn the highest amount of rewards each year. That said, a 2 percent card like the Citi Double Cash can be a great complement to a card like the Freedom Unlimited, if used strategically.
Best cards to pair with the Chase Freedom Unlimited
While you can pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with any number of rewards credit cards that offer different perks or rewards categories, it’s wise to pair this card with another premier Chase credit card if you want to travel—particularly the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.
You can pool all your points in one Chase Ultimate Rewards account for maximum redemption value and can even pool points with a spouse or partner who lives at the same address, as well as with any Chase business credit card accounts you might have.
Pairing with the Reserve or Preferred also gives you the option of transferring points to popular Chase airline and hotel partners like Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards.
As a reminder, if you have both the Freedom Unlimited and Reserve, you can enjoy extra value when you redeem points for travel through the Chase portal (with the Reserve offering a 50 percent higher point value when you redeem this way—the Preferred offers a 25 percent boost).
Another popular pairing choice is the Freedom Flex for its 5 percent rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 per quarter; must be activated quarterly). But rather than choosing either the Freedom Flex or the Sapphire Reserve, we also recommend pairing all three together. In fact, this combo won the “Best credit cards for stacking” title in our 2022 Bankrate Awards rankings since the total annual fee is only $550 across all three cards—less than rival card combos—and the pairing offers a better category scope, redemption option pool and rewards value potential than competing stacks.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited worth it?
The Chase Freedom Unlimited could be an exceptional deal for anyone who spends in its top categories or plans to spend a lot in the first year they hold the card. It’s hard to beat the card’s generous welcome bonus and ongoing rewards, particularly given that most cards that offer bonus cash back in specific spending categories offer just 1 percent back on general purchases.
Plus, the benefits are excellent for what you typically find among no-annual-fee cards. The trip cancellation/interruption insurance is a staple among premium travel cards, which gives the Freedom Unlimited card great ongoing value beyond its stellar first-year potential. Finally with plenty of options for redeeming your rewards, whether you prefer cash back or travel, the Freedom Unlimited positions itself as a great all around card if you want to get started with travel rewards cards or if you want to broaden your rewards strategy.